“The Long Winter” by Bill Walden and Allie Hammond brings genuine warmth to hurting souls

Last October, early one morning I was walking to BART as part of my mornin’ truckin’ to work. Minding my own business, not bothering anyone. Everything was fine. For a while.

Now, the portion of the San Francisco Bay Area where I am located, or as I prefer to think in the Bay Area but not of it, was once under lots and lots of water. No, I’m not referring to this winter’s thorough drenching, hopefully forever drowning the cries of recent years about man made global warming permanent drought. But I digress. Anyway, as my late father explained to me more than once, occasionally with assorted colorful Anglo-Saxon descriptive adjectives during assorted landscaping efforts, as a result of this primeval state underneath the relatively thin topsoil resides a layer of quite thoroughly compacted clay-laced earth and shale one must dig through whenever planting a tree in order for its roots to go down instead of sideways barely underneath the topsoil. If not poking out through the earth.

Now, back to my morning commute down a street with trees dutifully planted every few feet, placed by individuals who quite obviously didn’t know and/or didn’t care about the aforementioned soil condition. End result is more than a few sidewalk slabs thrust upward by tree roots. When one hits the edge of such a slab just right, one goes down. Hard. End result: couple of lingering scars, a black eye to end all black eyes, crushed pair of glasses, and a thoroughly unpleasant concussion that severely affected me for several weeks. At least no one could question whether I was hurt. Not fun, but other than the minor scars it has passed.

That said, a lot of people are hurting where you can’t see it. They carry wounds, and scars often threatening to reopen, from many sources. Past and/or present abuse from those supposed to bring love and support. Broken hearts. Shattered trusts. Everyone has hurt and been hurt. But for far too many, the healing is elusive if not outright seemingly unreachable.

Bill Walden and Allie Hammond have released an album entitled The Long Winter for those who are hurting. It’s not a collection of Christian cliches designed to lay a guilt trip on people for “not believing enough.” Instead, it addresses and admits to the hurting, offering solace in both shared suffering and pointing toward Christ as the Man of Sorrows, well acquainted with grief.

Musically the album strongly recalls the melodic side of classic folk/rock, richly aided by Walden’s compatriot in seminal ‘80s Christian alt rock band Undercover Ojo Taylor’s oft sublime arrangements. Walden’s plaintive tenor and Hammond’s rich mixture of Celtic-like lilt plus earthy blues provide the perfect combination to showcase songs and arrangements that are carefully controlled but never staid.

It’s difficult to pick out standout tracks, but one that deeply hits home is “Don’t Fly Away,” which without sappy emotional drek directly addresses those contemplating suicide. It is stunning, challenging, and comforting all at once to those fighting the depression monster’s satanic siren call to end the pain by ending oneself.

If you have been hurt, or are hurting, you are never alone. There is hope. There is strength to get through today and all the todays to come. The Long Winter reminds us of this. It is a most welcome and skillfully made reminder.

The album is available on iTunes (https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/the-long-winter/1438351632) and CD Baby (https://store.cdbaby.com/cd/billwalden2).